The Power of Our Presence

Warning: Contains graphic details on the topics of abuse and suicide that may be uncomfortable for readers.

Illustration by: Mandy Tsung

Illustration by: Mandy Tsung

A week from now, I will be turning 27 years old. I usually like to reflect on how much growth I’ve experienced and what areas I need to improve in. This year, however, the gift I want to give myself is the gift of surrender. Surrendering is a liberating feeling. For so long, I have conditioned myself to believe that it was ok to be quiet and mum about the details of the experiences of my past. That if I were quiet or vague about my experiences, it would make others believe I was strong and that if I talked about those things it would made me weak or disrespectful towards my loved ones.

But after 27 years of accepting that what happened to me was just “another form of love”, I have reached the edge of a world I no longer wish to appease and realize the power I have when I acknowledge my presence in my life. It has taken me several years to write about this subject, but I feel, in my process of surrendering, becoming, and accepting towards my self, that my story is now, more than ever, relevant and necessary in a society that secretly craves truth-telling. If you have experienced any of what I am about to share with you, I hope that you find the strength in yourself to recognize the power of your presence and walk away from the things and people that do not move your being forward.

Up until the age of 17, I had been a witness to domestic and emotional abuse at home, was a victim of both, bullied by my peers at school, and what people would call, a “cutter”, during my self-destructive years. When you grow up never feeling what it is like to be comforted or praised for your accomplishments, or even complimented for your changing looks, a person grows up to become really numb and fearful of others giving compassion and love to them. I’m always told that it is just an “Asian” thing, and while that’s partly true with upbringing, I do believe that the presence we are surrounded by when we grow up greatly affects our understanding of ourselves and the relationships we create with other people. I never grew up with parents who expressed compassion or emotions. It was always known that if we defied our parents or showed emotion towards what they were telling us, that we were disrespectful and knew nothing. I grew up with constant yelling, and at times, plates and other objects being thrown violently across rooms. I was just a kid then, but I remember everything so vividly. To escape the pain and violence I was witnessing and sometimes receiving, I would create imaginary worlds in my head that I would take refuge in, playing “pretend” with the creatures and people I created in my head or drawing until my tears blotted the colors away.

Growing up Asian, you learn to not cry in front of anyone because doing so would signify your weakness. You also learn to grow a thick skin–taking in the most degrading, humiliating words you can imagine, sitting silently and nodding in agreement when it was all over. You get used to being thrown into the flames at any moment and deal with the new burns that fester on top of previous burns still healing. For so long I’ve been told, “that’s just the way Asian parents show their love. They don’t know how to be compassionate.” I would allow this excuse to override the actual pain I was feeling and I would tell myself, “It’s ok that this is happening to me. It’s just their way of showing me they love me.” I was a fool to believe that this was true. What society and families miss in the shaping of children’s future’s, are the soft skills necessary to create sustainable relationships with ourselves and others. I was taught to believe that putting my head down and working hard and never acknowledging my feelings would put me on track to a successful life. I am finding that this is all wrong.

When I started to “experiment” with different personalities and dying my hair and evolving my “self”, I would come home to my mother telling me I didn’t look pretty that day or that I was fat or worse, that I wasn’t doing anything with my life. I was just a kid. Of course we don’t know what we’re doing with our life when we’re that young. In high school, I was told that I was a “waste of beauty” when I dated women for a brief period and that God would punish me by sending me to hell to burn. What idea can we shape of religion when who you are (at the time) is punishable by a God you’re not wholly aware of or understanding of in your life yet? You’re just a kid. You have no idea what God is yet. You only have what you’re being told. And why would anyone want to burn in hell? We are just trying to learn more about ourselves and our place in the world by living it in our way. I was put down plenty of times for any achievements I had in school and if I did something bad, I was acknowledged as “useless”.

Emotional abuse is still abuse. Do not think that just because they do not physically harm you that it is not abuse. Abuse is abuse. When you berate someone constantly and put them down, it is not coming from a place of love. It is not LOVE. People will tell me that “they just have your best interest at heart”. Those who have your best interest at heart would not put you down or make you feel useless or ashamed to be an imperfect human. These are toxic people who take satisfaction in seeing you fall and crumble just so you can yield to their righteousness. They may not ever admit it, but toxic people find their fuel in the energies of budding hope and change in someone. If something wasn’t done in the way they experienced it, what you do will never be good enough. In these instances, stay present with yourself and what is really going on around you. Listen closely to the words being said and the actions being displayed. The affects of having to experience emotional or physical abuse is that it does begin to numb you and chip away at your soul. You question your humanity and you begin to question if receiving love is something you’re worthy of. You question how to behave when you’re in relationships and sometimes find yourself behaving just like the person who inflicted the abuse on you. It took me a long time to realize that love didn’t come in the form of cuts and bruises or mental beatings, but it only happened when I found the voice of my presence.

From junior year of high school up until my sophomore year of college, I was in a physically (and emotionally) abusive relationship. I was lied to repeatedly, cheated on multiple times, wounded, and felt a low in my life I had never felt. I remember thinking at times when we’d fight, that this was their way of showing me love. That this was my way of showing how much I loved them back in return. That love was something we fought for, literally. There was one fight in particular that damaged me the most which sent me towards a very dark time in my life. The anger inside of me had built up having found out that they had been emotionally cheating on me again. I felt so unloved and just like in my childhood, unworthy of receiving love. “But this was their way of showing me love”, I thought. I wanted to show them how much I loved them. I wanted to show them that I was willing to bleed for them, and so I picked up the sharpest object I could find and dug the sharp end into my skin and slid it across multiple times. This is how much I love you. That I would die for your love. I thought. I watched the person I loved watch me bleed and do completely nothing to stop me. It was a devastating experience for me.

At the time I felt, “I must not be worthy at all to anyone.” I had taken my experience as a child and added this moment to equate that I must be unworthy of life and love. I was broken. Completely shattered and broken. I was so far away from feeling human that pain became the only friend I could trust because it was the only thing that felt real to me. Anytime friends and my new partner at the time tried to help, I would lash out and go in full disaster mode, thinking everyone was out to intentionally hurt me. If you have ever been through a physically or emotionally abusive relationship, you subconsciously begin to deny yourself of the good things that happen in your life that are meant to heal you. I pushed away people and created false stories of infidelity just to rouse my partner, because I had defined that love meant fighting. That love meant chaos. And if I wasn’t experiencing that, then it mustn’t be love. Experiencing abuse is something that I wish for no one to experience. Some people think that words don’t hurt, but in reality, they do more harm in the long run because these things stay in our memory. And our mind loves to spin the wheels of memory.

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Eventually, I overcame the darkest time in my life. It wasn’t easy–it still isn’t easy–to detach myself from those memories and experiences, but eventually, you get better because somehow, the light still wants to shine in the dark rooms of your heart whenever you’re hurt. Acknowledging the presence of your own self-loathing and destructive tendencies is not easy, but in the moments of despair and desperation for some kind of love, there is always something that saves you. I was saved by my own self.

In my darkest hour, having cried for 8 hours straight and lying on a floor, damp with a mix of my tears and blood, I found the presence I had been looking for in 22 years. I heard a voice inside me that whispered kindly,

“Get up. You are not who they say you are. You are not who you say you are. You need to live and tell your story. There are many others who feel the way you do. Only they are scared. You are their voice. Go on now. Get up.”

It is a presence that still finds me on days where I feel completely lost and alone. It is a presence that I believe people need to recognize they always have in them. The only reason it took so long to appear is because you had been surrounded by toxic people who were stifling your growth, but no matter where you find yourself in life, the presence will always be there with you, waiting for you to water and surround it with the good people and places that aren’t afraid to support you with their love and compassion. I want you to know that your presence, is also at your will. Establish what is love and what isn’t. Love isn’t violent. Love is comforting. Love isn’t bleeding. Love is healing. Love isn’t hurtful. Love is wishing for the best for you. Remember that, please.

Now that I’m reaching my late twenties, I am understanding my transformation and past experiences a lot better. I understand what love is and what it isn’t and I understand when I need to welcome love and when I see it disguised in manipulative and toxic people. While I am still working through a lot of things, I am learning the true gift of presence in our life. The presence and importance of compassion, of telling people you love them, of helping someone feel better even if you don’t understand their pain, of recognizing when something or someone has crossed the line of your self-love and respect, of knowing when to let go and walk away from people and places that no longer serve your highest self, and recognizing the presence of who you are–whatever it is becoming–that wishes for you to continue living and expanding in your own way of life and love.

Love is growing. Love is up-lifting. Love is your presence when you are weak. Love never doubts your courage or scorns you for trying. Love is not a score of who will fail first. Love is the highest belief of you.

And so you get up, and go on.

I promise you, there is a place where your love is deserving and worthy. It might take some time and detours to find it, but they are there. Just believe that you are enough and deserving, first. Remove yourself from whatever toxic environment you’re in, because there are people who will never berate you or bring you down. There is a place where even friends and acquaintances can be family and provide the love and familial comfort and support that you need. I am fortunate to have found this and grateful that I can continue to discover it, even if it means letting go of the people and places that we might consider our closest friends and family.

Your presence in this world is worthy of life and it is worthy of love. The recognition of the power of your own presence in this world is something never to be doubted. You are a head full of will and have a heart made oceans. You are beautifully, human.

Don’t you ever give up on that. Don’t you ever give up on you.

Yours,

Noemi

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Love: A Constant Journey You Choose to Create

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There is one feeling in the world that we all want in life and yet it is the one thing that we unknowingly fear the most: love. The phrase, “to fall in love”, carries both the terror and the bliss that happens when you meet someone who softens your heart and strengthens your soul. Isn’t that exactly what we truly want to feel when we fall in love with someone? That other soul and human being who is just as frightened yet courageous enough to hold on to something worth living and dying together for? My eyes well up as I write this because a very special human being came into my life and has shared with me, the most magnificent and sacred feeling that we humans are so lucky to experience. To experience love with another human being is absolutely breathtaking and marvelous. It is life elevated and is a dwelling place of true, heavenly felicity.

When I think about the journey I’ve made to discover my significance in the world, my divine purpose, and the love I needed to grow in order to create the life I wanted, I realize that all it took was a constant awareness of all that was happening around me and a choice to always choose that which was greater in love than in fear. As you move through your one human life, you are given gifts of love that are all around you. We are born into a world that already teaches us how to love and be present in the breaking and growing of ourselves as lovely human beings.

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Nature teaches us this through the seasons. We cannot know or experience the beauty and blossoming of life felt in the spring without winter. We cannot know presence without knowing absence. We cannot know courage without knowing fear. And with every season, you see just how resilient nature is in its love to show you how tender and forgiving love can really be. We have to learn to open our eyes and heart and choose to feel the love that is all around us. If you want love, you truly must be love, no matter how many winters you may go through. Love could never be terrible or unkind, that is the role of fear. Love is always giving even in your darkest moments. I know this because I was close to death once.

In the darkest hour of my life, I spoke to death so calmly and begged to understand my role in this world. I cried for hours to the point where tears no longer fell. I hadn’t eaten a real meal in weeks and survived off a slice of bread a day as my punishment for not being good enough. And when choosing life seemed so far away, the next morning I woke up and heard a faint voice fill my heart. It whispered to me lovingly, “Noemi, you exist for a reason. I am sorry you feel that life isn’t beautiful, but your ability to feel this intensely is why you must live. Live so that you can be a light and loving source of strength to others when they read or listen to your soul speak in words.” It was in that moment that I realized, love was the only choice I needed to make. Since then, I have devoted every waking moment that I get to choose a life that grows my love and fills others with it. It hasn’t been easy and I’ve had my heart broken plenty of times, but the truth is, the pain that passes through you is the moment you seize to give yourself the tender love that you deserve. You give yourself this love by maintaining your presence in the pain, awareness of your unhappiness, and you communicate with yourself and your partner what you would like to do differently and how you would like to grow through it.

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Part of the problem of why we fear love so much is because we spend so much time equating love to being able to fulfill the ego’s needs. We don’t spend the time to truly listen and act in a loving way to ourselves and our partner. We desire the closeness and loyalty of intimacy that love brings, but choose instant gratifications that soothe our minor aches. We don’t understand that love isn’t a stagnant thing.

Love is a constant and growing force that requires full awareness of the self and the other. It requires sincere, hard work to grow and move towards a love so heavenly. It is equal parts oxygen and magic. It keeps our eyes dilated and throats laughing and dreams birthed and hearts alive. It gifts us wonder and energy and helps us thrive. It is truly the great motivator in life.

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When we begin to love ourselves and can accept that sharing our vulnerabilities with each other is not a frightening task, we begin to allow love to enter in our home. Many people may enter and come and go, but only few will stay and create a home with you. Choose love and choose it always. And when you are lucky enough to meet someone who is brave in their weakness and yet steadfast in their choice to love and hold onto you as you both walk to the edges of the earth and fall together for a love so utterly captivating that even time and space tremble, you choose. You choose love over fear, always. You choose because even if you fear being hurt or shattered into pieces, you choose because growth requires breaking out of our old selves and routines to become truly alive as a human being for love.

I hope that you who are reading this, may go on and begin to create your place of felicity, wonder, and solace with yourself and whether or not you are ready to share that with another human who may just be courageous enough to build something with you, take it, choose it. Grow for love and all of its intoxicating beauty.

To my sweet Ben, my ever longing presence, my love has been waiting for such a soul like yours to share in the growth and experience of life’s ultimate purpose and greatest meaning in life: to love and be loved in return.

Always to the stars,

Noemi

A Thought, As You Grow.

In my continuous search for truth and enlightenment, I stumbled upon this beautiful thought on a clouded empty daydream:

“The less you associate with some people, the more your life will improve. Any time you tolerate mediocrity in others, it increases your mediocrity. An important attribute in successful people is their impatience with negative thinking and negative acting people. As you grow, your associates will change.. Some of your friends will not want you to go on. They will want you to stay where they are. Friends that don’t help you climb will want you to crawl.. Your friends will stretch your vision or choke your dream. Those that don’t increase you will eventually decrease you.”

I let a silent moment help me understand the words of this thought. There will always be people who enter and leave your life, and you will do just the same towards others. Because how can we grow, and understand all the things which we don’t know in ourselves, unless we seek the ideas and people who embody what we desire to be and understand?

How can we evolve our human spirit and mind if we continue to tolerate a cycle and structure built to grow complacency and mediocrity? In an age where all things feel too closely connected and easily accessible, why is it that these connections make us feel so detached from true, human connection and growth?

Break yourself away from looking through the glass of illusion, and step into a world that people no longer know how to exist in. Be the one to start an evolution. A movement that will inspire others to do the same.

A thought, as you grow.

Yours,

Noemi

Fly Far, Little Bird.

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Even the most beautiful environments are façades. Because what we see in front of us and around us, is not really all there is to see.

Its succulent nectars entice us to stay. “Life is sweeter here.” They say. We live our lives in silken nests that add to our misery when all is wrecked. We tune the speed of our heartbeats to gilded breasts with hollow hearts, and dream in short distances when we were made to soar: across horizons, above the seas, in the deepest caves, and into the darkest forests there are.

Seek outside of your self, so that you can find what’s inside of your self. Because there is more to you than what you see, and more to you than what everyone else sees. Because even though you are small like everyone else who is our kind, your heart beats to a different kind of tune. Fall in love with the mystery, be guided by curiosity, and most importantly, trust the path your gut wants you to follow if you’re lost. You will most certainly find yourself in darkness, and when you do, look up and you’ll see, that a certain darkness is needed to see the stars.

You’ll see that you are the content of your character. You’ll see that you are the ambitions that drive you. You’ll see that you are the goals that you set, the things that you laugh at and the words you say. You’ll see that you are the thoughts you think and the things you wonder. Because even truly, a shining star believes, that you are beautiful and desirable not for the clique you attend, but for the spark of life within you that has compelled you to make your life a full and meaningful one. You’ll see that soaring far from what you’ve known and came from, that you are beautiful not for the shape of the vessel, but for the volume of the soul it carries.

Fly far, little bird.

Yours,

N

Under the Night Sky

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A familiar yet unfamiliar feeling is slowly creeping into my heart. It is like the cold summer fog in San Francisco: rolling gently down the hills and spreading its long arms around the heart of the city. The gentle cold fog never scared anyone. When it crept over us with surprise, we gathered together to create warmth. It brought us closer to feel our own warmth. Without out it, we would not feel its mysterious affect in the deepest chambers of our soul.

You’ve ruptured a frozen blood vessel in me and its bleeding warmth is finding its way to melt the frozen webs of my heart.  You see, darling, although I have always had warmth, a very sacred part of my heart was always frozen—waiting for the right person to come along again and fuel the fire that was quietly burning within me.

You feed my innermost thirsts and desires, and I am hopelessly mesmerized by your fierce confidence and light-heartedness. I want to devour you—but slowly, so lovingly and slow. I want to pour the blazing fire from my soul and breath it into every inch of your being. Can we wrap ourselves in each other’s deepest human desires and kiss each other gently still? Let me open your eyes and enter your heart. Let me fill it with blood that makes your heart pound and pulsate in constant ecstasy and honesty.

Two different individuals we are, following two different paths, can coexist at the intersection of a chaotic desire. Tangled by the arms of honesty and legs of passion, our eyes and heart locked by the enchantment of our tryst, we share our naked souls as one man and one woman would.

You see darling, I want to let this light inside of me, in you. I am burning ferociously inside and only wish to give you—with my arms, breath into you with my lips, tangle my warm velvet tongue with yours, and sink my soul into yours—that which you are waiting to discover.

From your heart to your lips and under the night sky—et du cœur a tes levres, we’ll find ourselves tangled like little children and discover a sea of enchanting dreams.

For the Lonely Hearts of Today: A Girl You Should Date

A GIRL YOU SHOULD DATE

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes.Shehas problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.
Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.
Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

– Rosemarie Urquico –

Life Is What You Create Of It

I have approximately 57 hours left as a resident of San Francisco. I’ve made this beautiful city my home for 5 years now and haven’t quite absorbed all there is to it. With it’s hundreds of restaurants varying from exotic to raw-organic, charming neighborhoods that offer cultural surprises, romantic viewpoints along the bay and peaks, there’s an endless amount of untouched territory that I have not navigated in the 7×7 grid of San Francisco. I can attest to the idea that one may never really come to know this city very well, and perhaps that is what makes this city so beautiful and easy to fall in love with. Every morning’s agenda brings a new flavor to San Francisco, and I’m so grateful for having lived in this city to experience the places I have seen, the feelings that I have felt, the foods that have saturated my taste buds with delight each time, and of course the people–the ones that I have brought into my life and those who have left an impression on mine.

As I sorted through my possessions today, I couldn’t help but take a trip back down memory lane during my life here in San Francisco and recall the moments that helped shape who I am today, my values, and my beliefs. Upon moving to San Francisco, I chose to furnish my whole apartment, buy cookware, decorations, lighting–the whole thing. I used to care about making my home a place that was comfy and stylish at the same time, but after years of accumulating possessions and worrying about where to place my new art piece or paintings, I began to realize how much these things really didn’t matter once I started traveling more and spent more time on building a healthier lifestyle. There’s some quote out there that goes something like, “the things you own end up owning you.” This past year itself, I’ve downsized my possessions to 31 things I own. I’ll talk about how I did that in a later post, but in the meantime, let me get back to reflecting on items and its memories.

I took care of recyclables and goods to donate first, so I sorted through my books (probably the most difficult for me) and picked out which ones I thought I wanted to keep and others that I felt would light someone else’s imagination, along with a box of manuscripts, short-stories, screenplays, essays, and research papers I’ve written. As I sorted through these items, I was impressed with how creative my imagination could be at times and how quick I was to take up a new hobby or research something. I was once an aspiring screenwriter who wrote stories about pain, humanity, truth, and the unspeakable. I wrote research papers about the power of Communism in shaping a culture, people, and economy to prosperity. I wrote short-stories about self-discovery and class-divides, and manuscripts based on science-fiction and historical fiction. I was fascinated by the things people were scared to talk about, and even more fascinated to dig deeper and discover what these things were like, and so I wrote about it. I wrote because these issues and ideas needed to be provoked and thought about. If not read entirely, at least thought about.

I sorted through my clothes and shoes next, and was intrigued by the stories each style told. I went through a hard-partying, every Thursday-Friday-Saturday night clubbing/lounging phase where dresses embroidered with beads and sparkles wrapped my 5’3″ frame and 5-inch heels that screamed “kill your feet” danced away to European-style beats. I partied that way for a good 3 years, and I’m pretty sure that I won’t be partying like that ever. It’s a good experience to go through at least once in your life, and I’m happy that I did when I could. It brought many fun memories, created new relationships, and taught me a lot about what kind of lifestyle I really wanted for myself–and partying was just not it. So I said goodbye to my hundred-dollar dresses and shoes, told them “thank you for making me look good that night”, took away the memories and lessons that it gave me, and moved on to the rest of my wardrobe.

Surprisingly, I don’t own a lot of clothes or shoes like most women would. Instead, I like to mix-and-match, adding accessories to brighten up my outfits. I disposed a lot more clothes, shoes, and accessories today, and I made sure to do it quick with no chance of giving myself a second thought of, “maybe I’ll wear this again in 2 months”, because I almost never do. My advice? If you won’t wear it again in a month, seriously, just get rid of it. I’ve found that it takes too much energy worrying about the latest trend or picking up the hottest it-piece at H&M. My attitude towards this has a lot to do with my experiences travelling with very little. I never over-pack and aim to only have 10 or less articles of clothing packed whenever I travel. I’ve gotten used to this kind of living and especially used to having limited resources available to you. Sometimes, you just have to make do with what you have or get creative and turn that long black skirt into a black mini dress. When I go through my possessions, I think about how much more I am optimizing my happiness by just letting go of things and welcoming a more minimalist lifestyle. It’s very difficult to let go of things, and if you’re a girl, it’s twice as more difficult to let go of clothes and shoes. But like I said earlier, the quicker you let go of something, the less chance you have at giving it a second thought–when it comes to possessions. Believe me, the less you own, the more freedom you feel.

I am now down to a few books, a large luggage full of clothes, a mid-size luggage full of shoes, my guitar, and my computer. These are the things that I own now. Have they created what my life is today? Partially. They’re all pieces that attribute to my tastes, and give me “flavor”, but I say partially because what really created my life and what it is today, are the experiences and places that I’ve seen. All that I sought for, I discovered. All that I was curious about, I learned with feverish devotion. All that I wanted in my life, I designed to benefit my soul, well-being, convictions, and values. As I near the completion of packing up and letting go all the possessions that I’ve accumulated during my 5 years of living in San Francisco, I feel a sense of peace and freedom for having nothing and everything at the same time. I came across a wonderful and inspiring quote that was tweeted today by a fellow traveller: “In the end, no one can take away what you’ve seen or what you’ve experienced”. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that the real possessions and values in our life are the experiences, places, and people we meet. Sure a nice car, brand-name clothes and bags, or a really well decorated home, is great to have, but are those the things you will be most happy with in the creation of your life? Will these possessions and what you own define your life? Or will you choose to define your life by the experiences that you seek? The choice is ultimately yours to make.

Five years in this beautiful city has given me enough to move on and seek out new horizons, new challenges, people, and new experiences. So here I am in my last 57 hours with my 5 possessions and a starving hunger for more adventure, knowledge, love, compassion, moments, and happiness. Life is what you create of it. You are the only person that can design the way you want your life to be, so make it good and make it a story that can inspire others to do the same.

Yours,

Noemi

The Art of Romance

Romance is a royal road to soul as much as it is a path to genuine, conscious loving.

The Wanderer learns that when she falls in love, she will project not only the most noble qualities of her own soul but also, before long, her most negative shadow qualities. She knows eventually she’ll see her own shadow in her lover’s face, and, when she does, it will be disheartening, frightening, possibly repulsive. Knowing this, she’ll say yes to love anyway. Unveiling the shadow is as valuable a gift of romance as any other–and as dangerous.

The Wanderer knows her love affair has the potential to reveal mysteries both joyous and painful. Intense feelings and nonordinary states of consciousness will challenge and possibly erode her understanding of what life is, and who she is. She hopes for this as much as she fears it. If, in the rapture of love, she should feel like her true self for the first time in her life, she will know that her partner is only a catalyst. If she does not learn how to praise the Mystery when it shows up as love, the experience will fade and she will blame her lover for the loss as much as she had once given him or her the credit.

The candidate for soul initiation discovers that soulful romance keeps her in direct communication with the unknown, uncovers her sacred wound, reveals her shadow, and opens the door to ecstasy and union with the beloved of the soul. She discovers that sexual love is a spiritual experience as well as a carnal one. She learns to look into her lover’s eyes and see not just her friend and sexual partner but also a reflection of her own animus or anima (that is, the inner man or woman who serves as her guide to soul) and also, perhaps, a reflection of the divine lover.

She will also learn how romance and a surrender to her innate sexual nature usher her into a more robust membership in the natural world. Our sexuality, after all, is one current in the great streaming of nature. In a soulcentric approach to romance, we revere sex as a celebration of the nature both within us and without.

Go deep within yourself and seek the shadows that hold your deepest passions. It contains values and perspectives needed to round out our conscious personalities.

The Human Experience: Back to the Basics

There once was a time when people wrote hand written letters to express our feelings and thoughts to our loved ones or travelled miles to surprise those we admired and held close to our heart with the hope of meeting face-to-face. When I think about “human connection”, I think about being with someone in the very physical presence and sharing an experience that doesn’t quite match the hyper-connected relationships we nurture online. Being with someone physically, expressing part of yourself through hand written letters, or interacting with true authenticity and honesty, holds a sentiment that no real online connection can make.  When I think about “human connection”, I think about how beautiful the feeling is when we have nothing else on our mind but the person right in front of you–living, breathing, blinking, staring right back at you and listening right there with you. It’s what’s missing from our human lives today. We find ourselves so unknowingly devoted to our phones, and mobile devices that connects us in an instant to millions of people we barely know–or in my case, hundreds of people I rarely know or speak to anymore.

As much as I love expressing my ideas and feelings through online mediums, there is nothing more that I love than being with a person or people in the flesh and blood. Breathing the same air with me. Thinking, sharing, laughing, discovering, contemplating and feeling a real human experience that cannot be replaced by a screen. It’s this sort of feeling that really ignites my nerves and gets my blood flowing. It’s what makes me feel alive. We’re all so consumed in our digital lives (I’ll admit that I am guilty of this too) that we forget the real human experience that happens outside of our online realms. I too, forget at times, but make every effort to remind myself that nothing can substitute a real human body and it’s real human warmth and fascinating mind and soul to an online body. Before our lives became consumed by hyper-connectivity and over saturated with a number of social networks, connecting and interacting with someone in a physical sense–whether it was through an extension of our feelings onto paper or being in the physical presence of someone–”connecting” meant giving a part of our real intimate selves to bare the wait for the second our physical selves met face-to-face or to sit patiently with time to receive written words back from our beloved.

What we need now more than ever, is to shrink ourselves back to the basics of real human connection and give ourselves back the human experience we long for. Whatever it takes, whatever places you must remove yourself from, I dare you and myself to risk one or two hours of your time without the comfort of our instant online connections in the palms of our hands, to spend some time experiencing the feeling of being in the physical presence of another unknown to you. It’s a feeling that nothing else could match. It’s discovering and travelling through the stories of a past to understand a little bit of their soul and the life they have now. It’s listening to a living creature breath and speak the things that drive their passions for life or spark their curious minds. Nothing can substitute this feeling, and you’ll know what I mean when you’ve done enough of it.

Go ahead, surprise yourself by going back to the basics.

The Beginning of a Life Long Journey

The month of May marks itself as a very special one. It marks the beginning of Spring, where all aspects of life are in bloom–love, nature, clear blue skies–and the most important marker, change. As Winter woes melt away with the coming of Spring, some of us may find ourselves enjoying a new romance, embarking on a new career, or if you’re like me and a recent college graduate (hooray!), preparing the launch of my dreams and passions of becoming a social entrepreneur. Even though I may not have a long list of “professional experience” as a social entrepreneur (what is that? I’ll explain in a bit), one unexpected type of skill to have formed to be a social entrepreneur or leader is the emotional intelligence. So many people think that entrepreneurs are driven by money and commodification, but the only value real entrepreneurs are driven by is the need to help and enable the needs of the individual to create a better community. Think about it. So what is a social entrepreneur? Recently, I’ve started to subscribe to Ode Magazine‘s newsletters, and have discovered that a community of “intelligent optimists” do exist! Another key characteristic of an entrepreneur: optimistic. In the face of challenges and failures, social entrepreneurs have a tenacity that is driven by an optimistic, yet humble, spirit. Ode Magazine provides content that tells the stories of social entrepreneurs and how they are creating businesses that help benefit individuals and communities. It sounds like a non-profit, and you can call it that, but there are ways to be a profitable business and still pay out the dividends by enriching and improving the lives of others. Check out charity:water to see how one social entrepreneur created a businesses that enriched his own life and improved the lives of others. Okay, so I didn’t lay out a complete list of  what a social entrepreneur really is, because in essence, there really is no criteria. You only need to believe in your vision and be passionate about delivering the value it will offer others and the community as a whole. What I aim for is to help and enable the opportunities and improve the lives of others someday but I know that it’s going to be a life-long journey, and I’m ready to be that life-long learner, so I hope that you (whatever place you are in your life) can become a life-long learner of life and discover its many hidden facets.

Let’s move along now–amidst the twenty-page thesis papers, maintenance of my personal website and blogs, working twenty hours a week, and nurturing my soul and well-being, I have been absorbing as much knowledge and information as I can on social entrepreneuriship and how to make your dreams, passions and visions into reality for the benefit and development of others. One particular author/entrepreneur whom I highly admire and look up to, is Chris Guillebeau. I had been following his work and blog posts on his website, The Art of Non-Conformity, and pour my gratitude towards him for believing in his passions and dreams, being a role model, and empowering the passions and dreams of others. Before I stumbled upon Chris Guillebeau and his philosophies, I was constantly searching for like-minded individuals, which wasn’t easy to find or cultivate in others, so I always ended up going to bed with this feeling of “am I the only one who feels/thinks/believes this way?” During this search, I was confused and didn’t understand how other people could not  be aware of certain trends and patterns that our culture and people were beginning to fall into. I had realized the development of an unhealthy and in-genuine society our institutions and businesses (corporate mostly) were sustaining and promoting. What is happening is this: We live a pre-formulated life of carrying out the expectations of society–go to school, get a job, make some money, create a family, teach your kids to do the same, and then you depart from the world. What was missing from this pre-formulated list of things to achieve are the words, “follow the path of your dreams and passions and remember to give back to the community.” If change is so constant in our world, why do we fear change in our own lives? There is a way in which traditional institutions and businesses can operate and promote healthy values and provide tools that help enhance or improve the lives of others and the community. There might be some skeptics and cynics, but it is possible to create or redesign institutions and businesses on the added values of contribution and social justice. Think about it!!!

So now that I’ve taken you through a short ride of tangents and circles (at least we stayed on topic) on the beginning of this road, take a moment to think about what your dreams and passions are. What compels you to get up in the morning? What activities would compel you to live life with complete gratitude and happiness? We need to ask ourselves these questions. I dream to become a social entrepreneur who wants to help change the world, even in the slightest ways, by providing the right tools and resources to empower and enable the dreams of the voiceless, of the powerless, and of the hopeless. We are not meant to be slaves to the corporations and societal norms that employ and brainwash our dreams. Instead, we are meant to share and cultivate  in each other, the ideas and dreams that will change the world. By doing this, we create more innovation and when our innovation spreads, change spreads. One day, change won’t be feared.

Let’s come together and share our ideas, exchange dreams and passions, and take action in this awesome world of opportunity.

Cheers to the beginning of your life long journey and commitment to your dreams and passions.

Wishing you all the best, standing by your beliefs, and rooting you on!!

Noemi